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Indian Express

13-September-2023

The Indian Express, CSE candidates can stay informed about current events and developments in India and around the world.

1) The Maratha Reservation Issue

Context:

  • The Marathas have again raised their demand for reservation bringing the state of Maharasthta on the brink of social unrest.

Background:

  • A 2018 law by the Maharashtra government granted quota to the Maratha community.
  • The quota of 16% in admissions to educational institutions and jobs in public services was later changed to 12% for admissions and 13% for jobs through a 2019 amendment.
  • This took the total reservation in the State above the 50% ceiling imposed by earlier verdicts.
  • The Bombay High Court had upheld the validity of the Maratha reservation in principle.
  • It however ruled that the law could not have fixed the percentage above what was recommended by the State Backward Classes Commission headed by M.G. Gaikwad.
  • The Supreme Court had then set aside this ruling.
  • It rejected the HC’s reasoning that the denial of backward class status to the Marathas had pushed them deeper into social and educational backwardness.

What are the Marathas demanding?

  • One immediate demand from the Marathwada region is that the state government should grant Kunbi status to all Marathas because Kunbis are recognised as OBCs by the Mandal Commission.
  • The other demand is that Parliament should by law raise the 50 per cent cap dictated by the SC.

What could be the repercussions of such demands?

  • Both demands would open up unknown and mostly undesirable effects.
  • In particular, if the state concedes the immediate demand, it won’t stop with Marathwada.
  • In western Maharashtra too, the same demand will erupt and result in the Marathas possibly getting reservation at the cost of other OBCs.
  • If all Marathas are accorded Kunbi (OBC) status, the better-off sections in the community are more likely to benefit rather than the poor peasants.
  • This will result in politics in the states of Haryana and Gujarat as well.
  • It will reopen many pending demands from all over the country.

Reasons for flashpoint:

  • A combination of deeply fragmented politics of the Maratha community.
  • An irresponsible political establishment.
  • Inevitable slippage of caste claims into conflicts of caste identity have produced the current moment.
  • Even today, when the situation is reaching a boiling point, there is no leader left in the state who could address all groups in a voice of caution, sanity and innovation.

Other communities which are demanding reservation:

  • In Maharashtra itself, concurrent with the Maratha agitation, the Dhangar community has renewed its agitation over the demand for inclusion in the ST category instead of the current inclusion in the larger OBC category (sub-categorised as Nomadic Tribe with a share in reservation along with Denotified Tribes).
  • Conflict between the Gujjars and Meenas of Rajasthan.

Issues on which there is a need for serious discussion:

  • The reason given in the SC ruling denying reservation to Marathas;
  • There is no serious discussion of the implications of conceding Kunbi status to all Marathas.
  • Among political circles, there is no regard for the possible implications of lifting the 50 per cent cap.
  • Possible pathways for Marathas to change their longtime politics over reservation.

Way Forward:

  • While the Maratha demand draws attention to the deep fault lines in Marathi society, it also underscores the policy bankruptcy in the state.
  • Continuing agrarian distress, simultaneous draining of urban-industrial employment and the mushrooming of insecure gig employment as the last resort are some of the serious issues which needs to be addressed by the government.
  • An amicable solution needs to be reached keeping in mind the sensitivities related to this issue.

2) Inclusion of Africa in G20

Context:

  • The recent inclusion of the African Union (AU) in the G20 under India’s presidency has created a new milestone in terms of global economic and financial governance.
  • This article will discuss about the benefits this step would bring for Africa and G20.

How will it benefit the G20 grouping?

  • AU’s entry as the 21st entity, will add weight and potential.
  • G20 will now cover nearly 80 per cent of the world’s population, has 97 out of the UN’s 193 countries, 88 per cent of GDP and 79 per cent of trade share.
  • It balances the developed country regional grouping of 27 countries, the EU.
  • It raises the stature and credibility of G20 and improves the implementation of its policies, programmes, measures, principles and initiatives.
  • This expansion would make the G20 vastly more representative without making it unwieldy because only one leader will represent the AU.

How will it benefit Africa?

  • It will give Africa the voice, participation and leadership at the global high table, where its developmental, financial, economic and environmental challenges and solutions would be paid attention to.
  • Now, Africans will have a say on important economic issues which the world is facing.
  • Most importantly, Africa which has 33 out of 46 Least Developed Countries and faces wide spread poverty, conflict, political instability, climate stress, environmental degradation, and socioeconomic devastation from Covid, food, fuel, debt and financial crisis would get the much needed help from G20.
  • Now the G20 would be able to help Africa through global public goods — finance, technology, investment and capacity building in keeping with the Indian principle of “from Sarvodaya to Antodaya” and the SDG principle of reaching the farthest first as the answer to leaving no one, no country and no continent behind.

Africa’s Resources and Potential:

  • Africa is also one of the richest continents in terms of resources — agricultural land, minerals, metals, including rare earth, and youth power.
  • It has been growing steadily and integrating economically and politically.
  • It launched a Free Trade Area in 2018 and adopted an ‘Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want’—a blueprint and master plan for transforming the continent into a powerhouse.

How will it benefit India?

  • This will bear fruit for India in deepening its African partnership on various fronts (strategic, political, economic, technological, trade, people to people) and levels (bilateral, sub-regional, and regional) and alone and with like-minded partners from the North, such as Japan and the US.
  • In particular, it would seem to be a good counter to China trying to wean away African countries from India’s UN Security Council reform, even though it is equally in their interest, as no African country is a permanent member.
  • This would be a fitting complement to India having ensured Africa’s entry into this veritable Economic Security Council (ESC) that is now the G20.

Way Forward:

  • In all aspects of the G20’s mission, Africa has high stakes and will benefit from having its collective voice heard and prevail, besides South Africa’s.
  • India could be counted as a champion and trusted partner, and, in turn, draw strength from the grouping.

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